MADISON, N.J. --- The second seeded Moravian College men's basketball team repeated as the Landmark Conference Champions and earning an automatic berth to the 2019 NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament with an 86-72 victory at top seed Drew University Sunday afternoon.
The Greyhounds improve to 19-8 overall, just the fifth time in 82 seasons that the program has registered 19 victories including the third straight 19-win campaign under the direction of fourth-year Head Coach Justin Potts '00. Moravian will find out its opponent and site for the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on Monday, February 25 at 12:30 p.m. when the NCAA airs the 2019 selection show on www.ncaa.com.
Moravian has played in three straight Landmark Conference Championship games on the road, falling to The University of Scranton, 68-63, in 2017, defeating Juniata College, 81-78, a year ago, and Sunday's 14-point win for the program's second consecutive Landmark Conference title and the Hounds' fourth NCAA Division III Tournament appearance.
"I just thought we did a really good job of staying connected, which is a word we used," noted Potts. "It was a tough environment, and I thought our guys responded to every situation. I'm really proud of their effort, their commitment and they earned this title today. I give Drew a lot of credit, they have a really good team. We just found a way to play our best at the right time.
Senior forward Oneil Holder was named the Landmark Conference Tournament's Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high 25 points to go with nine rebounds, four assists and a pair of blocked shots in Sunday's championship game. Holder, who has 497 points this winter, the sixth best season in school history, became just the fourth player in program history to reach 1,600 career points, now with 1,620, and he also became the sixth player to reach 700 career rebounds, now with 703. Senior guard Nicholas Casazza was 4-for-7 on three-pointers to finish with 16 points and six boards for the Hounds while junior guard C.J. Barnes also went 5-for-7 beyond the three-point line and had 14 points and three rebounds.
Sophomore guard Matt O'Connor scored seven points and had a pair of assists while junior guard Elijah Davis had seven points and three boards. Senior guard Will Brazukas contributed six points, six rebounds and four assists while junior forward Addis Ralph tossed in six points as well. Senior guard Jimmy Murray had three points to head to the NCAA Tournament just four points shy of 1,500 for his career while sophomore guard Shon Wilson had two points.
Moravian had a hot shooting hand in the victory, going 32-for-66 from the floor, 11-for-28 on three-pointers and 11-for-17 at the foul line, and the Greyhounds shot better in the second half when they scored 46 points as the squad connected on 17-of-32 field goals, 7-of-14 three-pointers and 5-of-7 free throws over the final 20 minutes of action. The Hounds' pressure defense and up-tempo style forced Drew into 14 turnovers while the Blue and Grey committed a season-low eight turnovers.
Barnes opened the scoring with a three-pointer and a pair of free throws from Holder had the Greyhounds leading 7-0, 2:14 into action. The Rangers answered with 10 straight points and 13 of 15 points to move ahead 13-9 with 14:21 left in the first half. Moravian came back and tied the score at 13-13 on a lay-up from Murray before Drew moved back in front. Barnes hit another three-pointer to tie the contest at 18-18, and the score was tied three more times including 22-22 with 7:32 before the intermission.
Holder broke the tie with a lay-up, and Casazza would grab an offensive rebound off a missed free throw followed by a three-pointer in the Hounds' next possession to put the Blue and Grey up 29-22 with 6:18 left in the first half. Holder followed with another basket off of an offensive rebound, and Davis drained a three-pointer to put Moravian up 34-23 with 5:38 left in the first half.
Davis connected on a pair of free throws with 4:03 before halftime as the Hounds had a 38-27 lead. However, Moravian scored just one more basket in the half while the Rangers scored seven points to cut the Greyhounds' advantage to 40-34 at the intermission.
Barnes began the scoring in the second half as well as he took a pass from Holder on the first possession of the half for the Hounds. Barnes then pushed the Blue and Grey's advantage back into double digits with back-to-back three-pointers with a 50-37 advantage with 15:34 still to play. Casazza drained a pair of deep three-pointers to give Moravian a 57-41 lead at the 13:17 mark. Holder pushed the edge to 20 points, 63-43, with a driving lay-up with 11:33 to play.
Holder connected on an old fashioned three-point play as the Greyhounds took a 77-56 advantage with a little over six minutes left in the contest, and three-pointers from Casazza and Davis had Moravian leading 83-58 with just over five minutes to play, the Hounds' largest lead of the afternoon.
The Blue and Grey will find out the site and first round opponent on Monday, February 25 in the NCAA DIII Selection Show on ncaa.com at 12:30 p.m.